The former Lackawanna public works commissioner at the center of a lawsuit brought by Mayor Geoffrey M. Szymanski against the City Council doesn’t live in Lackawanna – violating the city’s residency requirement, new court documents allege.
Council members also accuse Thomas N. Love of taking a voluntary incentive of $15,000 to retire in 2010 from Public Works and then staying on the city payroll.
The new details were part of an 11-page answer from Council members, who were named individually and as a governing body as defendants in the lawsuit filed in December in State Supreme Court.
The mayor accused the Council of usurping his exclusive powers to hire and fire department heads when they voted in June to cut Love’s annual salary to $10,000 – a move that led to Love’s resignation in November. Prior to the salary cut, he was making about $30,000 annually.
The Council denied it was trying to usurp the mayor’s power and maintained that cutting Love’s pay, as well as that of the city comptroller and city clerk, were “necessary fiscal reductions to practice good government and balance the city budget.”
The new court papers, filed last week by the Council’s lawyer, John P. Gaughan of Hiscock & Barclay, allege that Love doesn’t live in Lackawanna and that the mayor was not enforcing the city’s residency requirement for department heads.
Love has been registered to vote in the city for years, listing an apartment on Scotia Road as his home address, according to Erie County Board of Elections data.
He and Nanci Love purchased a single-family home on Clark Street in the Town of Hamburg in 1996. Love did not return telephone calls this week to his cellphone and to the Hamburg home.
But Szymanski said in an interview that Love’s residency hadn’t been at issue before. “I don’t ask him where he lives,” the mayor said. “The last I checked the payroll said he lived in Lackawanna.”
The mayor would have to seek a waiver from the City Council to appoint a nonresident as a department head.
The court papers also said Love missed most Council meetings even though he is required under the City Charter to attend or ask to be excused.
Court papers said that Love and Szymanski are relatives and that while serving as 2nd Ward councilman in 2010, Szymanski helped enact an Early Retirement Incentive Program.
Under the program, Love applied for and received the $15,000 incentive, the papers said.
Council members trying to confirm Love’s participation in the program said they’ve been denied access to city records.
Szymanski confirmed that he and Love are related, saying his great-grandfather and Love’s mother were siblings.
But the mayor said the Council’s points have nothing to do with the merits of his lawsuit.
And Szymanski said he wants to retain Love in the commissioner’s post “because he has a very good understanding of most of the city’s problems.”
Szymanski also said Love’s work as public works commissioner amounts to a savings for the city. Love’s pay can’t exceed $30,000 under the state’s pension laws. The city would have to about double that amount to attract another qualified candidate, the mayor said.